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Lifestyle in Style

“Papi Chulo”: The Maturing of the LGBTQ Genre?

“Papi Chulo” may represent the maturing of the LGBTQ film genre which at one point to me was a bit of LGBTQploitation.

Sean is a Los Angeles television weatherman who has recently broken up with his partner Carlos. Sean has a meltdown during a weather broadcast and begins to sob. It would seem the break-up has exacted an emotional toll on Sean and his boss and colleagues urge him to take a vacation and “talk to someone” which one would think is a few sessions with a mental health professional.

Sean lives in a beautiful home overlooking the mountains. He just hates a tree on his deck and has it removed but that leaves a round circle where the pot holding the tree was placed. So in effect the entire deck needs to be repainted. Not having the requisite skills or knowledge to repaint the deck he picks Ernesto from a small group of Mexican itinerants for hire who hang out near a hardware store.

Ernesto is 55 and Sean in his thirties. Meaningful communication is difficult due to language barriers. The painting job Ernesto is to complete in several days seems continually postponed as Sean takes Ernesto hiking, rowing and even to a gay men party.

Sean pours out his heart to Ernesto about his life but Ernest pretends to understand and keeps saying “yes”. But despite the lack of ability to communicate in any deep fashion what is most important is that Sean is unburdening his soul and Ernesto gets his $200 a day whether he paints or not.

Ernesto realizes eventually Sean is gay but stays with him and as a straight actually seems to be enjoying himself at the gay party until on the way home Sean attempts to kiss Ernesto and that results in their bond of friendship snapping.

Sean then hears that Carlos has died and he really starts losing it. Desperate to find Ernesto Sean goes searching for him in a Mexican suburb called Pico Rivera where he has his phone stolen and his face smashed by a skateboard. Gringos are not welcome here.

Sean drinks away his sorrows and somehow in a drunken stupor crashes an outdoor Mexican party where Ernesto is in attendance where he collapses onto a table and stumbles around mumbling incoherently. He is placed in a bed and passes out and leaves incognito the next morning. One of Ernesto’s friends starts to criticize the fool gringo but Ernest silences him by reminding him how he acted when one of his best friends died.

Guess who shows up a few days later to finish the paint job?

You can treat this as a light comedy but the straight world is seamlessly brought into the LGBTQ world in a major way not just via a bit part. Based on the LGBTQ films I have seen this is a big step.

The soul heals itself through many ways and in this case through a very unusual friendship.

Beautiful shots of Los Angeles with a good soundtrack. Madonna never sounded better! Both Matt Bomer as Sean and Alejandro Patiño as Ernesto deliver the goods. Directed by John Butler and will be available on DVD as of November 5, 2019.

To see the trailer

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